Karachi is the largest city, main seaport and financial centre of Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh. The city has an estimated population of 21 million people as of April 2012. Karachi is the most populous city in the country and the world’s 3rd largest city in terms of population by city. The city credits its growth to the mixed populations of economic and political migrants and refugees from different national, provincial, linguistic and religious origins who have largely come to settle here permanently. It is locally termed as the City of Lights for its liveliness and the City of The Quaid, for not only being both the birth and death place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan but also his home after 1947. Residents and those born in the city are called “Karachiites”.
It is Pakistan’s centre of banking, industry, economic activity and trade and is home to Pakistan’s largest corporations, including those involved in textiles, shipping, automotive industry, entertainment, the arts, fashion, advertising, publishing, software development and medical research
Karachi is located in the south of Pakistan, on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Its geographic coordinates are 24°51′ N 67°02′ E. Most of the land consisted largely of flat or rolling plains, with hills on the western and Manora Island and the Oyster Rocks. The Arabian Sea beach lines the southern coastline of Karachi.
Karachi is a melting pot of many different flavors as many different cultures and people immigrated to the city giving it a very cosmopolitan touch. Before 1947, the city was inhabited mainly by Sindhis, Baluchis, Mekranis and Gujaratis from the areas near the city. In 1947 most of the city’s Hindu population left, and a large number of immigrants Mohajirs came from India. Most of these belonged to the Urdu Speaking parts of India. Along with them, Memons from Gujarat and small quantities of communities from other areas also arrived. After independence a steady stream of immigrants has been coming to the city from different parts of Pakistan and made large Punjabi, Pathan, Bengali and Hazara communities to grow in Karachi. In 1971 there was a large influx of mainly Urdu Speaking people from the former East Pakistan. In the 1980s a large number of Afghan refugees streamed into the city. With the blending of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, South Asian and Western influences, there is considerable diversity in culture, and this diversity has produced a unique cultural amalgam of its own type giving the city a status of being international business center.
Karachi is predominantly Urdu speaking city with many other languages also spoken in the city. According to 1998 census, the linguistic distribution of the city is: Urdu 38.52%; Sindhi 27.34%; Punjabi 13.64%; Pashto 11.96%; Balochi 4.34%; Saraiki 2.11%; others 2.09%. The others include Dari, Gujarati, Dawoodi Bohra, Memon, Marwari, Brahui, Makrani, Kowar, Burushahki, Arabic, Persian and Bengali.
Karachi is predominantly Muslim (Sunni 66% and Shia 34%) city with small religious minorities. The religious break-up of the city is as follows: Muslim 96.49%; Christian 2.35%; Hindu 0.83%; Ahmadi 0.17%; others 0.13%. The others include Parsis and Buddhists.
Meat is an important part of Karachi’s cuisine. Curries, pulses like dal, are also very popular. Of all the meats, the most popular are: beef, goat, chicken and seafood. Barbecue food is also extremely popular. Dishes made with rice include pullao and biryani. Different kinds of breads like: Chapati, Naan, Tandoor bread, paratha and puri are very popular. Sindhi biryani is also very popular in the city which at times is used as a tool in talk shows over the media against Indian biryani. Taftaan and Sheermal are also very popular and are eaten by people all over the country. Nimco is very popular across the country.
Education in Karachi is divided into five levels:
- Primary level (Grade one to five)
- Middle level (Grade six to eight)
- High level (Grade nine and ten)
- Intermediate level (Grade eleven and twelve)
- University level (Programs leading to graduate and advanced degree)
Karachi has both public and private educational institutions from primary to university level. All academic education institutions are the responsibility of the Provincial Governments. The Federal Government mostly assists in curriculum development, accreditation and some financing of research. But in most of the institutions, Sindh Board is followed.
Karachi is a festive city and many religious and cultural festivities are observed across the city. Religious events such as Ramadan, Chaand Raat, Eid Milad un Nabi and Ashura are among the most prominent festivities of the city. Many rallies and parades are carried out during the events of Milaad un Nabi, Ashura, Jashn-e-Baharan and Nowruz by religious leaders and followers all across the city. Ethnic and religious minorities, like Christians, Hindus, etc. also celebrate their events, although not on as large a scale as Islamic events. The Sindh Cultural Day is also celebrated in the city in the month of December. People wear traditional Sindhi Topi & Ajrak, being the popular cloth of the area, and gather in different areas of the city where they play songs, dance, attend functions where artists come and perform. Other than that, Basant is also celebrated privately by the family clubs in the city.
Being the center of international business, there were many headquarters of different channels situated in the city. But due to unstable situation in the city, many of the headquarters are now shifted to Dubai. Among the radio channels, there are many channels aired across the city but FM 96 is the famous one in the city.
Karachi’s culture is evolving with the time. Adding new components to its culture, the newest one is of Target Killing. Embedded to its roots now, target killing is seen as normal attribute to the city these days. Targeted killings in the city have been attributed to political, religious and ethnic reasons. The ethnic mix has resulted in political parties being affiliated with specific communities. For example, the MQM was founded for the political interests of the Muhajir people. Other social classes also formed their parties. Today, rivalry between groups has seen the rise of social and political chaos and a multiplication in target killings. Religious sectarian parties and Sunni-Shia conflict have also led to violence.
Karachi’s dominant culture, to which a preponderant majority of the population subscribes, is defined by an urge to create/produce something that can be marketed. Everybody, from a coolie to an industrial baron, is engaged in utilizing all his time to do something, to produce something that will enable him to maintain his family, augment his resources and climb higher in society. It is this urge that has enabled a large number of people, coming from various stocks and professing different faiths, to raise Karachi to what it today is. And this largely by the dint of their hard work, often in spite of the powers that be. The essence of this culture is the high value attached to time. Also Karachi is identified by its huge strides in the area of philanthropy and social service. Even before independence, Karachi was known for its public-spirited individuals and it had more institutions of public service than any other town in Pakistan. Despite everything that has happened in the country, Karachi still leads in this field. The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant, the Edhi Foundation, the Citizens Foundation, the Aga Khan University Hospital and the Urban Resource Centre, to name only a few, are institutions any country should be proud of.